Real Salt Lake: Renewed with confidence, RSL preps for L.A.
Sandy • When originally viewed upon the calendar, the July 12 match at the L.A. Galaxy looked like it could have been misplaced. Still potentially during U.S. World Cup play, a crucial Western Conference showcase between Real Salt Lake and the Galaxy had the makings of two undermanned sides squaring off at StubHub Center.
Landon Donovan didn't make the trek to Brazil, while Omar Gonzalez did with RSL stars Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, helping the United States men's national team out of group play and into the Round of 16. But they're all back. Suddenly a match that might've lacked its potential of star power across the board seems to be revving up for another full-strength affair.
"Any time you go head-to-head with a team that has a lot of confidence especially now in the second half of the season it's going to be a six-point game," said RSL coach Jeff Cassar. "We're really excited."
A sliver into the second half of the 2014 campaign, this will be the third and final time the two rivals square off this regular season. Meeting twice in the first three weeks of the season, RSL won 1-0 at StubHub Center in the season opener on March 8 and drew 1-1 against the Galaxy in the home opener on March 22. With RSL's hot-then-not go so far, L.A. has had an intriguing season so far as well. The Galaxy have played only 14 matches entering next Saturday's date with RSL, tied with Toronto FC for least matches played and most matches in hand.
Currently with 21 points, L.A. trails RSL by seven points in the Western Conference standings, but has three games in hand of its rival. Cassar knows this. Poised to make a run in the second half with the likes of Robbie Keane, Donovan, Gonzalez and others, it's clear to RSL that the time is now to assure results against opponents from the West like the Galaxy.
It doesn't hurt to have Beckerman and Rimando back in the fold after seven weeks away from the club.
"I think we're going to give them a few days off, then re-visit it on Wednesday or Thursday to see how they're doing and where they're at," Cassar said. "Going to L.A., that's one of those games where our guys rise to the occasion. I'd be really surprised if they say they don't want to play."
RSL returns to L.A. having escaped the difficulty of the last month, fresh off its 2-1 win over New England Friday.
"This was just an important game for us to just get out of the rut in terms of the results and build confidence again," defender Nat Borchers said.
RSL at L.A. Galaxy
O Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
TV • CW30